Rebirth: She crept around the curve, left the path, and squeezed through a maze of bushes. Peering between two oaks, she saw Mark and two of his buddies lugging something-or someone-in an oblong wooden crate. She recognized his companions as Jeff and Howard. Past experience taught that they would punch someone who so much as look at them crooked.
Heather backed away, shivering. So far, the boys hadn’t noticed her, and she wanted to keep it that way. The boys’ wicked grins and leers warned that they were about to hurt someone really bad. She’d have to find help. Maybe a teacher at school would know what to do.
Just as Heather turned on her heels, the crate’s occupant let out a blood chilling scream. The voice sounded like her mother.
Homes for the Dead: “Dammit! I’ll see that girl put in jail.” Lydia dialed the police. Busy signal. After depressing the cradle button, she dialed again. Ditto results. She paged Joe, who headed the maintenance crew.
“Joe, someone’s breaking into my office!” she screamed into the phone. “I need your help. Now!”
“I can’t, Lydia,” Joe told her. “Vandals wrecked the 305 Hilltop house. The place is in shambles, and the police have questions for me. Sit tight. I’ll get there when I can.”
“Joe, this is an emergency,” she pleaded.
“We’ve got a disaster here. Five dead and two injured. You’ll have to wait.”
“Joe, please!” Click!
Roses for Elaine: Crepe-soled footsteps whispered from the hall. A woman wearing wrinkled scrubs, a sallow complexion, and oily blonde hair the consistency of cooked spaghetti lurched into her room. It was Paula Blaine, Elaine’s primary nurse at Silver Slipper Nursing Center.
“Life,” Paula grinned, and Elaine gagged on the stench of whiskey.
The grin. That was awful. What was she doing here? The last thing Elaine needed was a drunk visitor. Though piles of blankets covered her, she shivered. She coughed, setting off a chorus of alarms.
Paula slapped her hand on the “silence” button. “What’s the matter?” she cooed in a syrupy voice. “I consider you my friend. Friends don’t rat on each other, do they?”
Even in the dim light, Elaine got a good look at Paula’s pupils. Glazed and dilated, a sign she’d taken something stronger than whiskey. Memories bubbled to the surface: Paula ignoring her pleas for breathing treatments. Paula slapping her for crying. Paula smiling while making veiled threats.
“If you tell anyone about me, I’ll silence you for good.” Paula traced her manicured fingers along the breathing tube. “Nod if you understand me.”
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